4/15/11

Family Meals Made Easy

In theory, meal plans sound like a great idea for busy families. Plan out your meals for the week in advance, buy all the ingredients in one trip to the grocery store, and it’s smooth sailing, right? Only I’ve never quite been able to get the hang of it. Inevitably, I end up staring into the pantry at 5pm, night after night, a few ingredients shy of whatever dish I’m trying to make. Add in 2 picky, impatient kids, 1 vegetarian, 1 low-carbotarian, and it’s a recipe for failure.

So when a woman I met at Blissdom contacted me about trying out E-Mealz, a site that lets you customize a meal plan for your family, including vegetarian, low-carb, and meals based on sales at your local grocery store, I said “Heck, yeah, sign me up!”

Here’s how it works: you pay $1.25 a week for the service, or $15 for 3 mos. (No, seriously. That’s really how little it costs. I waste 5 times that much each week buying random ingredients I never end up using. Like mushrooms. And weird cheeses.) You can choose plans for 2 or 4-6 people, for a specific store (Walmart or Kroger, for example) or any store. I did the vegetarian 7-day family meal plan for any store.

So you log on to the site and pull up the weekly menu. (See sample menus here.) You also have access to the previous week’s menu if you want. Then you print out the recipes, along with a grocery list, which lists the ingredients you need, listed by aisle. The grocery list ALONE was worth it for me. No more losing scraps of paper on which I’d scribbled “2 bell peppers, froz. spinach, eggs.”

The pros of E-Mealz: how easy it was, how you only buy what you need, and how there are so many options. The cons: how much food the plan produced. I soon realized I couldn’t keep up – with the cooking or the leftovers. On a good week, I manage to cook dinner maybe 4 to 5 times, tops. Then I peter out and it’s takeout and Trader Joe’s frozen entrees. But it’s also because we don’t eat that much food. I soon began off-loading the leftovers to my neighbor. (She didn’t complain.)

The meal plan also highlighted how picky my family is. Unfortunately, there were lots of recipes I had to rule out right off the bat because I knew they’d never fly in my house. Like Walnut Cheddar Loaf. Not happening. But I did try a few new things like Quinoa- and Vegetable-Stuffed Peppers (good, but lots of chopping) and Greek Eggplant (easy and tasty!)

The bottom line: I think E-Mealz is a great idea and the price makes it a no-brainer. It could actually save you money if you’re prone to wasting food like us. For a family that eats pretty much the same thing every night, I say give it a try. For us? Until the kids get a little less picky, I’m better off cobbling together our own meal plan based on the limited recipes my whole family likes. But I sure will miss those print-out grocery lists.

DEAL O’ THE WEEK: E-Mealz is offering 15% off for new subscribers. Sign up here and use the code BLISS at checkout. (Note: this is an affiliate link.)

RECIPE O’ THE WEEK: Believe it or not, this Linguine with Shrimp Scampi was a crowd-pleaser in our house. I left out the hot pepper flakes for the kids.

6 comments:

Loukia said...

Not a bad idea! Especially for someone like me!

Angie Mizzell said...

I think I'd like it, too. I think I'd try the 5-day plan for two people and let the kids fend for themselves. Just kidding.

Fisher Boy Food said...

Some great ideas for planning family fun meals that pleases everyone. I find that buy purchasing a lot of multi-purpose ingredients, last minute meals get easier. If there is a protein that everyone in the family will eat, stock up on that and prepare different variations throughout the week. Thanks for the post!

Molly said...

I kept reading post after post until I got to this one and I just have to comment because I have an online menu planner that I do myself and you might want to check it out. What makes mine different is that I am passionate about healthy eating...lots of F & V, plus I have "how to" videos, shopping lists, and only 3 new entrees a week (but you can add more if you want.) Let me know if you use it! I enjoyed your posts so much!

Molly said...

Oops, forgot to give you the address...

http://orangetreelane.com/

Anna said...

I Love Shrimp With linguine , Delicious . Anna

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